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Updated 10/2/21 - Zoro Staff
Regardless of how careful you are when spray painting, overspray is going to happen. And controlling where the overspray ends up is extremely important so you don't end up with a big mess that needs to be cleaned later. If you do need to remove spray paint, there are a few methods that can be used to remove it from your hands or skin, your clothes, glass, plastic, and even your car.
Most importantly, time is of the essence when it comes to cleaning any kind of paint stain. While there are no guarantees you'll be able to completely remove a stain or get it out in time, you'll increase your odds by acting quickly and following some simple basic steps for spray paint removal. This article will review some of these to hopefully help you clean up nicely.
Paint is much easier to remove if you try to get it off your hands or skin immediately. If it has a chance to soak in, you'll likely need to repeat the removal steps to get the job done or try different methods to be successful.
Here are a few methods. First, the tried and true option of using soap and warm water. Using dishwashing liquid and warm water, vigorously apply pressure as you rub the painted spot for 1 to 2 minutes. If it's stubborn and still difficult to remove, try a toothbrush. The friction from rubbing with the brush should loosen the paint and allow it to be removed. A citrus degreaser is another option. Put some in your hands, scrub them thoroughly until you see the paint coming off, and then rinse your hands with water. Once done, wash them clean with soap and water to remove any degreaser residue.
Nail polish remover is another good alternative as it contains acetone which is very strong and very effective for paint removal. Simply soak a cotton ball with the nail polish remover, then rub the stain, which should easily remove the paint. Mineral spirits can be used in the same way you would use nail polish remover. It's not as harsh as the acetone in the nail polish remover, but whichever one you use, again be sure to wash the stained area clean with soap and water.
Other less conventional options to clean paint from the skin include using baby oil, cooking spray such as PAM, butter, essential oils, and even mayonnaise. Again, use a cotton ball soaked with any of these products and vigorously rub the skin until the paint starts wiping clean.
If for some unfortunate reason your vehicle ends up with spray paint on it, it's not permanent and there are effective ways to remove it. Once again, nail polish is a good alternative due to the acetone in it. Nail polish is formulated to remove what's been painted on nails, so it stands to reason that it can remove unwanted paint on a vehicle. Using a damp microfiber towel or terry cloth to keep from scratching the clear coat or paint on the vehicle, pour on a liberal amount of nail polish. Use small, circular motions to remove the spray paint. Be sure to rub very gently so you don't risk removing the vehicle's clear coat or paint. The spray paint will start to come off your car onto the cloth, so be sure to switch out cloths often until all the spray paint is gone. Thoroughly wash the vehicle when done.
Detailing clay is another option to remove spray paint. Detailing clay is a polymer abrasive that will remove anything sitting on top of the paint on your vehicle, but won't scratch or damage the vehicle's surface. Before using, wash and dry the vehicle to remove any surface dirt. Using a piece of clay about the size of the palm of your hand, put it in a zip lock bag and set in warm water to soften it. Once it's pliable, knead the clay while flattening it to about the size of a pancake.
Next, apply clay lubricant to the unwanted spray paint and onto the clay pancake. This is necessary so it won't stick to the vehicle. Now, with firm pressure, rub the clay over the spray paint in a back and forth motion. Keep doing this until the paint is removed. When done, use a microfiber cloth to wipe the clay residue off the vehicle. One last step to take is to apply a new coat of wax to the vehicle. Using detailing clay removes any previously applied wax, so this final step will protect and restore your vehicle's finish.
If you have a plastic surface with unwanted spray paint on it, detailing wax is an excellent product to use on plastics as well. Just follow the same steps as you would for a vehicle.
Butter Wet Carnauba Wax is another excellent alternative as it contains carnauba oils that will break down the spray paint. The wax won't scratch or damage the paint or clear coat on vehicles while effectively removing the spray paint. Simply apply the wax to a soft sponge or cloth and then, in a circular motion, rub the area to be cleaned to remove the unwanted spray paint. When finished, use a microfiber cloth to remove any leftover wax while brightening the finish.
If the spray paint stain on clothes is still wet, quickly soak it in a sink to get the stain wet. Remove it from the sink and then begin blotting the stain to remove as much of the stain as possible. Do not rub the stain at this point. Doing so only pushes the stain further into the fabric while spreading it around. After blotting out as much of the stain, it's time to use a stain remover.
Which type of stain remover to use will depend on the type of spray paint. Since most spray paint is acrylic, use dish soap and vigorous rubbing to get as much of the stain out as possible. Next, use a dry cloth on the stain by rubbing it thoroughly. This will help remove more of the stain, while also driving the soap deeper into the fabric so it's more effective.
For a dried-on stain, use a table knife to scrape as much off as possible. It will likely come off in chunks since it's dry, which is good and prepares it for the next step. Products that are alcohol-based, such as hairspray or nail polish remover, work best. These break the bonds in acrylic paint and will help to lighten and lift more of the stain. Since the stain has dried, it won't be completely gone but should look better. Now, run it through the wash, which may just remove even more of the stain.
While all other spray paint removal tips listed here are rather involved, removing spray paint from glass is probably the easiest. All you'll need is rubber gloves, microfiber cleaning cloths, nail polish remover (with acetone), and water. While wearing rubber gloves, wet the cleaning cloth with the nail polish remover.
Hold the wet microfiber cleaning cloth against the spray paint to loosen the bond. Once you notice the paint starting to soften, use the cleaning cloth to scrub it away. Keep repeating this process until all the paint is removed.
Next, wipe away the nail polish remover with a water-dampened microfiber cloth. Finish by cleaning the glass with a commercial glass cleaner that prevents streaks.
Materials needed: Dish soap and a safety razor blade.
How to Remove: If the technique described in the article doesn't work, mix soap and warm water and wet the window. Carefully scrape paint off the wet glass surface to avoid scratching.
Materials needed: Denatured alcohol or mineral spirits and a rag.
How to Remove: For latex paint, rub with denatured alcohol and a clean rag. Oil-based paint requires mineral spirits. Wipe thoroughly with clean water and dry after the paint is removed.
Materials needed: Commercial cleaners, bristled brush and a paint scraper.
How to Remove: Loosen the paint with a stiff brush and a paint scraper. Vacuum up all debris, then apply a chemical paint stripper. Lastly, clean with a pressure washer to remove all traces of the paint stripper.
Materials needed: Olive oil and a cloth towel.
How to Remove: Apply oil to countertop and rub in with a towel. Wrap a towel around a hard and flat tool like a putty knife to gently scrape harder paint spots.
Materials needed: For wet paint: use glycerin and paper towels or cloth rags.
For dry paint: use white vinegar or nail polish remover and paper towels or cloth rags.
For tougher stains, a commercial cleaning agent may be needed.
How to Remove: Dab or blot supplies on affected area without rubbing.
Materials needed: Dish soap, warm water, rubbing alcohol, mineral spirits or floor wax, plastic scraper or steel wool.
How to Remove: Blot as much paint as possible. Stuck-on residue can be removed with a plastic scraper.
Materials needed: Pieces of fabric, paint removing gel and a bristle end brush.
How to Remove: Soak a soft fabric with the gel, then place it over the brick. Allow the product to stand as long as the manufacturer recommends, and the paint should easily peel away when you remove the cloth.
Materials needed: Plastic putty knife, vegetable oil, nail polish remover, denatured alcohol, or dish soap, and water.
How to Remove: Scrape paint while softening areas with oil.
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The product statements contained in this guide are intended for general informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness, accuracy, completeness, correctness or currentness of the information provided. Information provided in this guide does not replace the use by you of any manufacturer instructions, technical product manual, or other professional resource or adviser available to you. Always read, understand and follow all manufacturer instructions.